Thursday, September 30, 2004

Selfless Self-Actualization?

Evelyn Rodriguez crafted an eloquent and critical response to my self-conscious self-analysis about the potential selfishness of self-actualization. It's inspiring and thoughtful and I encourage you to read the whole thing...but here's a quick quote:
"Self-actualization is ultimately not selfish, it's selfless. It's not about what you 'want', it's about becoming who you are and expressing that - not shrinking away from it. "Successful" people may or may not be self-actualized - they are not necessarily correlated. Self-actualization isn't about external success."

Engaging the Slackers

I had commented on one of Pat Kane's posts about slacking off in the workplace, and his response really connects with some of my recent thoughts about transitions for people who are not engaged in their work:
"Slacking is, at least, a temporary sanity-strategy in a pathological workplace. But ultimately, I agree, it's self-defeating - filling people up with cynicism rather than energy. I think slackers want to be players, unalienated and engaged - it's often that their will has been sapped, they're in a cycle of tiredness and defeatism."
Anyone who has worked in a company dealing with mergers or layoffs (often both), or just any really nasty corporate culture has seen or experienced the cycle he talks about. Exactly at the time when you most need the energy and willpower to make a change, you're exhausted and demoralized. It's terribly difficult to regain momentum to get engaged or get out. Pat's thinking that government policy could ease transitions for people seeking a better life:
"But, hell, I still have a dream of an enlightened government that could construct a 'social wellbeing system' that could help people strike out for engagement in their active lives, without them disappearing in a tangle of debts and disillusionment if the Free Agent dream goes sour. A ground of play, as I call it."
We're mostly in a mode right now where we're not expecting much help from governments (although the boomers are obviously riled up about health care funding), but that may change. Some simple policy changes could facilitate this without being too expensive. For example, why not give someone two or three months of employment insurance benefits even if they quit their job? With this lifestylism project, I'm more interested in how people help themselves through these transitions, and Pat makes a great observation:
"I've been talking to a lot of people over the last few days with the book, and I suppose I'm trying to be cognisant of just how trapped and dependent some people are on the their jobs - locked into consumption patterns that require a steady wage, maybe even a love of routine that insulates them from the world, etc."
The latter part is often based on pure fear -- fear of not getting a different job, losing the relationships they've built up at work, having to start at the bottom of a ladder somewhere else. But I'm most fascinated by one of the reasons he gives for people's dependence on their jobs -- the costs of their lifestyles demands it. So one obvious way for people to enable their transitions is certainly to dial down their expenses, which is never easy.

Living Large

I'm not sure why I keep responding in semi-inflammatory ways to innocuous quotes like this almost-inspiring thought for the day. The author was saying that we should be trying to live "big lives", as opposed to "small lives", which is fine, I guess, but it seemed to be implying that anything other than fame and fortune and taking big risks constitutes an inferior existence. I tended to agree with one of the other respondents:
"Finding fullness in each day is another way to address what I think Marcia is saying. The passionate nonsense that the ad-woman lays out can be real and true as far as it goes, but it has a ‘sound and fury’ ring to it... a me generation focus. There are six billion of us. Many of us will never live large, but each of us can make a happy life for ourselves, our families, our friends, our communities, simply by adding our loving expression to the mix."
This ties into a comment from a good friend the other day. We were talking about our various quasi-midlife crises and he said that he wants desparately to live a life of consequence. It's a powerful statement. At first I took it in the same way as the "live large" quote, but then he clarified it and I realized that he was talking more about being truly engaged in his actual life, not aspiring to some externally judged measure of greatness.

This talk of big and small lives also reminded me of a smart post I had read about creating a life that is a manageable size. He quotes an actress talking about her life:
"'I'm never going to be a star,' she says, 'but it's nice to be pushing 60 with more to do than I've ever had before. And my life is a manageable size. So if someone gets sick or someone gets happy or a baby is born, I can be there.'"

Monday, September 27, 2004

Moving Ideas

The Work and Income resources from Moving Ideas are extensive and thoughtful. Their report on low wage America doesn't paint a pretty picture of the future of work on our continent. You could read for a week in those two sections alone. Oh, to have the time...

80-Hour Workweeks Are Bunk

An extension of the discussion of Balance vs Big Bucks from Evelyn Rodriguez, who also wrote wisely about a book I'm reading on a truly innovative approach to work. She quotes the CEO, who sets the tone for his entire organization:
"Semler himself says, 'I've halved my work hours to about 30 a week, I spend 80% of my time doing what I want, rather than what people want me to do. I take piano lessons, play squash, do yoga every day. And I almost never feel guilty for lack of time for my little boy, wife, and friends.'
Granted, the guy is a gazillionaire with power, so it might not be as hard for him to be a lifestylist as for us average working schlepps. But if he's managed to free his employees from the charade of the usual corporate culture, then perhaps he's providing a model for everyone else to consider.

Kevin Salwen also waded into the same balance discussion with some well-written wisdom:
"You get the point: Our lives are not so much a teeter-totter as a river of work, family, friends, community, faith, whatever. And the streams that feed the river at any one time can be strong or weak depending on where the influences are coming from. And there's nothing at all wrong with that. Just don't box me into the balance metaphor; it doesn't work."

Self-Actualization and Making a Difference

Curt left a fascinating response to my little post about Maslow's Wants, and I don't want it hidden away:
"I sometimes wonder if my work - helping people identify their passions and create careers that ignite them - is frivolous self-indulgence. It's 100% about self-actualization. Then I remind myself that part of what I'm doing is throwing pebbles in the pond. And the ripples from the self-actualization of the people I touch - what they actually go out and do, and the people they impact as a result - will inevitably make a difference. And some of those ripples will make a difference in areas that are much lower on Maslow's Hierarchy.

So to the extent that self-actualization is about making a difference (I tend to believe that it is, at least in part), what might seem like self-indulgence is actually planting the seeds for positive change."
This goes to the heart of one of my own reservations about the lifestylism concept -- the implied selfishness and even narcissism of focusing so much attention on what I (or you) want. But I also keep coming back to the concept of values, and I believe that what people really value also has the potential for positive impact in the world. The cynic in me sees everyone stepping on everyone else to get ahead...the optimist sees that when people are actually living in synch with their core values, they do good things and care about the needs of others.

As an extension of these ideas, Curt's musing about work that makes a difference has some great discussion about our purpose in life and how it relates to our work.

Personal Evolution or Collective Revolution?

Brian slips an eloquent challenge to lifestylism into his discussion of creativity in transforming education, asking (I'm paraphrasing) whether lifestylists will use their choices to live effectively within society's constructs or to show the way to better types of society:
"Will the presuppositions of lifestylism originate in authentic creativity, or status quo creativity? Much of the self-help speak is status-quo creativity in that the focus of the ideas are designed to find variations on living within the exisiting presuppositions of our society. An artistic perspective on lifestylism, however, would be something quite different in that it would seek creativity by questioning and challenging the presuppositions that establish social norms themselves."
I kicked off this project with the question: What is Lifestylism?...and the answer was that it has its roots in anarchist literature. The true anarchist (one who would destroy or subvert existing power structures) views lifestylism as vacant escapism that can have no lasting positive effect on the evils and imbalances of the world. As I said then, I don't really buy the criticism -- I prefer Brian's question.

At the core, I think lifestylism is about how individuals make lifestyle decisions that match their core values. So right from the start, we have to acknowledge that our values are formed within the existing presuppositions of society. That fact limits our creative capacity somewhat -- if our values are aligned with the status quo, and we're making decisions that match our values, revolution is improbable.

But it also seems to me that we're coming into a time when many people's values aren't particularly in synch with those existing structures and paradigms, or even well-aligned with their own lifestyle choices. For example, if you ask people what's really important to them, most will say that they want to spend more time with their loved ones...but when given the option, they'll almost always choose to work more for more money, which reveals their actual priorities. Not that engaging in our work or pursuing higher incomes is inherently bad, but it doesn't reflect what they say they want.

I think that if more people actually aligned their lifestyles with their values, we'd see more creative paths showing up. What if 50 million north americans suddenly realized that the American Dream wasn't their dream at all, and that they could figure out new ways to live, work, play and create with less negative impact on the environment? What if those ways let them spend more time doing what they want, and less time keeping up with the Joneses? What if their global awareness and local focus got them more engaged in determining their political direction and structures? What if they stopped watching TV and started spending more time working with likeminded folks on fixing some of the most pressing problems of modern society?

Seems like every good question deserves...more questions.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Sustainable Housing

Tannis outlines her thinking on choosing smart housing options, and points out the compromises with great clarity:
  • "Cheaper land and housing are never conveniently located next to cities where most people find work
  • which means you spend more time and money on transportation
  • that equals less time at home to relax, enjoy the family and follow personal pursuits
  • UNLESS you can go all the way and reduce your wants and needs to a low enough level that you can survive on a lot less money, either self-employed or working locally within limited options."
She also talks about the pros and cons of our current setup and some of the unique possibilities we saw in the Kootenays. It reminded me of Rob's recent riffing on how rural living will be the wave of the future, at least for the subset of people who are self-employed and can swing it.

Digital Storytelling

My rambling about how people will be telling their stories for posterity got some attention and generated some other great ideas:
  • VidLit may not fit anyone's idea of a personal memoir or e-portfolio, but watch either of the videos and think about how easy it is becoming to express ourselves with simple images and sound in addition to text. This is fantastic storytelling.
  • I'm reading the Narnia series to Ivy right now and last night we read a passage in the Horse and His Boy where C.S. Lewis asks why schools don't teach storytelling -- it would certainly be more useful than learning to write essays.
  • Stephen Harlow dug up LifeBits, which sounds like a fascinating experiment and includes all kinds of links to related resources
  • Helen had kind words and pointed to StoryCorps, a wonderful project to get people talking to each other and recording their memories
So what does this have to do with lifestylism? I think a good personal journal can help us see ourselves, but telling stories to each other gives us the chance to create better lives and share our joys and failures.

Big Bucks vs. Balance

There's a great thread going at Worthwhile about Big Bucks vs. Balance. The initial post was a response to a Fast Company feature called Balance is Bunk, with the central premise being that the work-life balance is a myth:
"you can't have both a big paycheck and reasonable hours. The laws of economics won't allow it. If we want time with our families, time to give back to our communities, time to stay slim, we're going to have to accept a pay cut -- and even then, we'll have to work darned hard."
I'm seeing the truth in this idea that we can't really have it both ways as an employee, and even entrepreneurs struggle with working too much. This discussion tends to veer into questions about our definitions of success and how we measure our quality of life. I thought this comment from Jeffrey Cufaude was spot on:
"Big depends on your appetite, and if you have reasonable expectations for consumption of consumer goods and the like, you can work modest hours and feel quite financially secure. But that means living in the not so big house and making other choices that I’m afraid too many Americans at least see as counter to their definition of success. In some respects, isn’t our entire economy dependent upon people binging on more and more so they must keep working more and more in order to pay for it."
Although most middle-class north americans believe that they're entitled to their slice of the American Dream and all the goodies that includes, those of us who want to spend less time working will have to find ways to reduce our costs. An old classmate of mine is also wondering about life in the fast lane these days:
"I think many young adults are now questioning the lifestyle choices of the previous generation. Why do we need the two car, 3000 sq ft home, and $100,000 + salary? What is the best way to raise kids in this postmodern society? How do we best educate our children? We all know what a failure the public school system is and universities are not much better. Why do we live the lives we do and are there some better choices that we could make? Perhaps living a life that is simpler and maybe does not require two full-time incomes is the way to go."
And while we're on the topic, I don't want to lose this excellent list of benefits of flexible work arrangements, both for workers and employers.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

35-Hour Workweek

From another interview with Pat Kane from Canadian intellectual zine New World Disorder:

NWD: You refer to the French 35 hour work policy. It's hardly mentioned at all in the U.S. and when it is covered in the business press it's basically dismissed as a "failure." Could you discuss what the French experiment might teach us?

PK: Well it's not a failure - it's still retained by the recent right-wing government in France, after its inception by the French Socialists several years ago. And it's still not vitiating French economic productivity, by all the known indicators (which of course infuriates media like Business Week and the Wall Street Journal). The French experience has been that workers completely treasure their extra day, however flexibly arranged and distributed - allowing more sports, pastimes and consumption, of course, but also more parental childcare, more opportunity to join clubs, associations and movements, more time for cultural and social innovation to happen.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Maslow's Wants

The tagline for lifestylism is "creating the lives we want", which flippantly assumes that your basic needs are already taken care of. I occasionally reference Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in this context, often pointing out how lucky we are to have the priviledge of obsessing about our self-actualization.

Grunge Parents

I love the opening to this article addressed to managers trying to figure out their Gen X employees:
"Let's say you're a baby-boom generation manager (age 40 to 58), and you've got a team of people in their late 20s to late 30s working for you—or, heck, maybe you report to one of them. Does it puzzle you when a 30-year-old employee with a great track record and a stellar future goes out on maternity leave—and decides not to come back full time, opting for part-time work instead? Or when a Gen X dad asks for more time off—a lot more—to spend with his family?"
I should probably send that link along with my next request for shorter workweeks, extended leaves or other newfangled arrangements that don't really fit the corporate mindset. This got me digging into how Gen Xers are approaching parenting:So of course this stuff hits pretty close to home for me, having two young kids at home and thinking back to reading Douglas Coupland in university and remembering seeing Pearl Jam and Soundgarden at Lollapallooza in 1992. I was so Gen X, and I guess I still am, but it seems hilarious to imagine that all of those kids moshing to Ministry back then have kids of their own now. And their values are "alternative", but in a more conservative direction than I might have guessed:
"Gen X moms and dads tend to be homebodies - they are willing to sacrifice one spouse's income to have a parent at home with the kids, and frequently have to go into debt to own a house. Sometimes they choose arrangements, such as each spouse working a part-time job, that ensure that both parents get time with the children."
Much of this stuff rings so true for me -- I see it in the decisions and trade-offs I'm attempting these days, and in the values of many of my peers. One blind spot in this thread is the number of Gen Xers choosing not to get married or have kids, but I also see parallels in those choices because they're showing that we want to rewrite the old rules and create our own reality free of previous constraints and expectations.

At least some boomers resent the implication that Gen Xers are turning out to be better parents than they were, and of course there is always someone looking to capitalize on every demographic trend. The study referenced in all of these articles was done by Reach Advisors, a marketing consultancy that is doing their own kind of lifestylism project, except they're making a lucrative business out of it. Where did I go wrong?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Outsourcing Your Own Job

We all have days when we wish someone else could do our jobs while we sleep in or whatever. Apparently some geniuses have been taking advantage of the global economy to do just that. The Monster Blog quotes a programmer from a Slashdot thread:
"About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He's happy to have the work. I'm happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. My employer thinks I'm telecommuting. Now I'm considering getting a second job and doing the same thing."
While there seems to be something vaguely odious about this approach, you have to admire the guy's (or girl's) initiative...a proactive twist on the controversy surrounding the outsourcing of white-collar jobs?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Life Coaching

Yesterday Brian Alger took an in-depth look at life coaching, and the types of education and certifications available for this emerging work:
"The notion of life coach certification provides practitioners with a source of authority and basis for establishing themselves as a trusted professional in the eyes of the public. In general, the market for lifestyle coaching is focused on providing solutions to help people bridge the gap between what they want to do or be in life and their present circumstances. In other words, lifestyle coaching is about providing a service for the preservation (and perhaps the recovery) of an individual's identity in the confluence of everyday life."
I appreciate Brian's cautions about this opportunity -- I have always been somewhat skeptical about companies like CoachU, although I can't really justify my negative stance. Perhaps it's a guttural reaction to the commercialization of every potential problem where we think we must seek out a professional (counsellor, stylist, tutor, therapist, landscaper, housekeeper, childcare provider) for nearly everything in our lives. It also seemed to be too easy to hang a shingle out and claim that you could help people transform their lives.

On the other hand, this lifestylism project is helping me understand how much help people seem to need, so if they're willing to pay for it, why should that be a problem? Although I'd like to see people develop their own strategies and networks for optimizing their lifestyle choices...I have to acknowledge that many don't even know where to start. I glean great advice from Curt's Occupational Adventure, and that's enough for me...but that doesn't mean that someone else won't choose to pay for his services, which I'm sure are excellent. Perhaps since the barriers to entry are so low, the supply of life coaches will outstrip demand for a while. Like any other consulting role, the wheat will be separated from the chaff soon enough.

Food in Lifestylism

The Play Ethic has such a wealth of good stuff. After a longish quote from the NY Times about how "people find that additional experiences give them more pleasure than additional possessions," Pat Kane segues into a discussion of experiencing food in an age when people live more intentionally:
"So many times I've been asked, 'but who will flip the burgers in a play society?' You'll flip your own, comes the reply, particularly if you have a regulation of working hours that allows you to attend to your own nourishment. Or you'll enjoy them from someone who wants to take gastronomic care and give extraordinary service, rather than the sub-robotic assembly of diseased crap (SuperSizeMe)! The Slow Foodies - and their theorist, Carl Honore -- are onto something here. It's another reclamation of the right to order our time, space and materials."
This is inspirational stuff. Food is an important factor in creating our quality of life, but it is so often abused. Makes me wish that Hope would be blogging more often, and that my brilliant nutritionist-friend Sophie would put her food-wisdom online.

Nine Shift

Stephen Harlow discovered this week that he and I are leading very similar parallel lives in opposite hemispheres. My lost twin! He also tipped me off to Nine Shift from authors of a book by the same title -- lots of good lifestylism stuff in there, much of it focused on a fascinating comparison between current changes and the societal shifts of a century ago.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Digital Life

My head has been spinning with ideas surrounding how people represent their lives to others -- not verbally, or with their outward appearance or where they live, but how they record, organize and display their experiences. In contrast to my recent focus on how people envision their future lifestyles, I'm pondering the value of the past.

I went digging into an old journal and found a few pages of notes I had made five years ago sketching out a business plan for helping people construct their personal histories (journals, memoirs, etc). My mom has done some of this kind of work both informally and through her business, Rosetta Projects. We talked seriously then about marketing consulting and publishing services to individuals and groups who wanted to create books, documents, web sites, and multimedia for their own posterity. We were looking at the scrapbooking phenomenon and thinking about all of the grandparents in the next 15 years who will want to reflect their lives for grandchildren and posterity.

Most of us have kept journals and letters, filled photo albums and dutifully saved home videos. Those media seem fairly manageable, and they can constitute a decent (although fragmented and disconnected) records of our lives. Anyone who has had a computer for a few years is starting to also see the mega(giga)bytes of other personal archive material piling up in disorganized folders: digital photos, music, projects, resumes, e-mails. If you could wave a magic wand to assemble all of those artifacts in a way that created a meaningful representation certain events, showing progressions over time and overall showed someone (or yourself) the essence of you, that would be pretty cool.

Now picture the implications of millions of people who always have portable devices that digitize and record anything they're experiencing. Cell phones already do e-mail, take photos and store music, so we're well down that road. Today I found this post on the topic: Personal Life Recorders and Digital Lifestyle Aggregators. I've bounced off of Marc's ideas before, but that was when I was thinking more about the learning and career-planning benefits of e-portfolios. He's envisioning technology that will make it easy for people to create and manage their own personal records and networks (think how easy blogging has become).

I suppose that the technology will eventually be as easy to use as a point-and-shoot camera. It made me realize that although nearly anyone can buy a camera, people still hire wedding photographers. Will people be willing to pay to have someone work with them to assemble the views of their past experiences and stories that they want passed on to their children and grandchildren?

Or perhaps from a less opportunistic angle -- will these kinds of skills be necessary and valued in the future? Just as we're expected to be able to assemble a meaningful and effective resume now, will the ability to digitally represent our stories, characteristics, and learning help us be more engaged workers, family members or citizens? What if we could all create the equivalent of Johnny Cash's video (RealPlayer or QuickTime) for Hurt as we look back in old age? What an intensely powerful personal artifact -- a four-minute snapshot of an extraordinary life, narrated in song by the Man in Black not long before his death.

Mortality is the unannounced shadow behind some of this discussion. People want to believe that their lives do matter; that they'll be interesting ancestors and that someone will care to understand who they were (if not who they are). Since I started paying attention to the blogging world, I've come across sites with a death notice as the most recent post -- the author has passed away, but their words, links, photos and files live on, leaving a fascinating public view of their lives that would otherwise never exist. A blog may be a fairly rudimentary personal history, but spend an hour looking through the archives of any established blog and imagine its value in conveying something meaningful about that author.

But what of the inherent narcissism in all of this for those of us who plan to be around for a while? The knock against blogs is that nobody else cares what I ate for dinner last night, my opinion on Michael Moore, the process of writing my thesis, or whatever else I might think is important right now. I've always found this argument to be absolutely irrelevant (although it stings to hear it from people who know you blog). Just because most people's personal artifacts (letters, songs, writing, videos, photo collection, other creative works) won't have a big audience doesn't mean that it won't be extremely valuable to the small group of people who do seek it out. And the most important member of that audience is the author, who can look through the filtered layers of their life and try to find wisdom, personal growth, and opportunities emerging from their past.

It's also true that although there may be a couple of million bloggers who all think this personal publishing phenomenon is something pretty special, only a small fraction of people will ever want their lives recorded and reflected in the ways I'm describing here. They will clamour for better ways of collecting, creating and sharing their stuff while hundreds of millions of people never get the urge to put their lives on display in any way -- not even just in print for a family heirloom. This does not negate the possibilities in this area, because the I suspect that the number of people looking for easy ways to represent who they are will continue to increase (especially as the boomers age) and the technology will keep making it easier for them to do so.

Friday, September 10, 2004

What Do We Really Want?

Cynthia has been doing some thinking about the differences between the urban neighbourhoods she grew up in and the suburban ones she raised her kids in. She dismisses her own "good-old-days" nostalgia and points to the obvious problems with isolating people in the 'burbs:
"Why and when did things change? And who said that the pursuit of happiness should include spending your whole day away from your children, getting up an hour and a half earlier in the morning so you have time to drop the kids off at daycare and penciling in 'dates' with your spouse...and children for that matter? Why does it seem we are embracing this lifestyle even moreso, even though we see the negative results right under our noses?"
Rob's comment to the post also sums it up nicely: "It seems so strange that we have come to believe that a 'normal" life is a life where we are separated from all that we need the most - our partner, our kids, our place and in the end our true selves." which Cyn responded that it seems like it's time to get back to basics. I agree, but I think it's more complicated than that. My response:

The "basics" seem to run counter to many of our motivators and goals these days. I think at in the past (maybe in the '50s and '60s), the American Dream included the desire for leisure and spending time with your loved ones...but in those days, one normal income was enough for a family to buy the house with the picket fence, and the new car and whatever else.

We still tend to think we're entitled to the same things, but most families need two good incomes to achieve those same goals. For whatever reason, it's very difficult for people to sacrifice the nice house/nice car/nice neighbourhood in order to spend more time doing what they want to do: leisure, socializing, hanging out with their families, etc. Maybe we all say that we want those things, but they're actually lower priority than working more to get better stuff? They must be, or we'd be doing it differently.

Doing it differently for most families starts with freeing up more time to spend with each other, meaning working less (often going to a single income), which probably means reducing costs and standard of living -- perhaps renting, or sharing accommodation, or buying in out-of-the-way places without the usual conveniences, fixing up the old car for years, forgoing vacations and fancy toys -- and most of us aren't willing to do it. We've tried to do some of these things very intentionally, and it works pretty well...BUT it is hard when your peers all seem to be "getting ahead" in all of the traditional measures of success. It's hard to purge the very bourgeois desires for nice stuff, beautiful homes and recreational properties.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

More Optimism

Historian Howard Zinn writes about the optimism of uncertainty:
"An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."
This last line is inspiring, I think. Isn't this lifestylism? We're creating our individual and collective future by living out our values and dreams.

Generation Y's and Values

Pat Kane links to this article from Australia about how Generation Y approaches the world differently:
"For them, office life bleeds into personal life, which means the polarities so beloved of baby boomers are blown away. 'It's a new paradigm,' Chalke says. Upwardly mobile is no longer cool. It is now about 'adultescence', a conscious choice to experiment rather than acquire. Verginis wants a home and family, but is not prepared to be a wage slave to get them. 'I'd get a house quicker if I'd stayed in my job,' he says, 'but I don't want to sacrifice what makes me happy.' Unlike his parents' cohort, the boomers, (aged 43-58), he is not chasing utopia, or claiming to get no satisfaction."
Generalizations about an entire generation of people tend to paint with too broad a brush, but I think there is a shift occurring in how we view our purpose and the things we values in our lives. I think we're less willing to live by simple rules governing our big decisions -- "climb the corporate ladder", "get more stuff", "bigger, more, better homes/cars/toys" -- the old rules just don't capture the relativism and varied expectations and values in play today.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Scottish Radio

Excellent radio show from the BBC, including Pat Kane talking about shorter workweeks and The Play Ethic and an introduction to Tom Hodgkinson's advocacy of idleness in sharp contrast to our fixation on work. Really good stuff.

The clip starts at about 16:00 and the feature is at around 16:26, so skip ahead about 25 minutes unless you want to listen to the rest of the Scottish arts report.

Monday, September 06, 2004


The Creative Generalist linked to this great article from Fast Company last week: Mothers (and Fathers) of Invention. Inventors are real lifestylists, I think -- not only are they working outside of all normal channels, they are creating new things for new kinds of lifestyles. A while back, Doug also tied these innovators to his conception of proactive living.

Worthwhile Clips

Worthwhile Magazine is looking really promising -- I hope they don't phase out their blog after the print version goes into full production. In cleaning out my Bloglines clippings, I found three recent posts, mostly from their Passionate Work category:

Doing vs. Thinking and Serendipity

I'm cleaning out all of the stories I've clipped in the past few weeks, and there were a couple of gems from The Occupational Adventure. This one pulled out a great quote from a book talking about minimizing the intellectual exercise of planning and deciding in favour of actually getting out there and doing stuff as a way to figure out your path:
"We learn who we are - in practice, not in theory - by testing reality, not by looking inside. We discover the true possibilities by doing - trying out new activities, reaching out to new groups, finding new role models, and reworking our story as we tell it to those around us. What we want clarifies with experience and validation from others along the way.
...To launch ourselves anew, we need to get out of our heads. We need to act."
The second one I wanted to keep was Curt's better definition of serendipty, using some advice from a photographer: "Some photographers call it serendipity. I call it being at the right place enough times to give the right time a chance of happening." It's related to the first point because of the focus on doing rather than planning or waiting for the perfect something. I found a similar phenomenon when we used to live beside Value Village (great new tagline: "The Ultimate Treasure Hunt"). If you want to find the coolest items, you don't go there once a month for three go a couple of times a week for fifteen minutes, preferably after they've put out some new stuff.

Oxymoronic Thinking

I love Doug's post on oxymoronic thinking, if only because the opening line makes me laugh out loud: "Beethoven was the Snoop Dogg of his generation." He goes on to explain how every exit is an entrance into something else, especially in the world of work.

Life and Love

Brian Alger is writing profoundly about the role of love in our sense of the quality of our lives. I recommend reading the entire article, but I was most struck by this paragraph's relevance to the lifestylism concept:
"In an enigmatic twist of fate, this questioning happened at the same time, from the perspective of a bystander, that I might have been seen as at the height of career attainment - international travel, the six-figure income, the bottomless expense account, the high-rolling with executives and government officials, and so on and so forth. But what precisely had been attained? There was nothing wrong with that career path, yet there was something missing within. Clearly, my definition and perception of attainment and success were suspect since I began to question the purpose of what I was doing. The source of this personal mind-body-spirit conundrum was love."
So much of our sense of worth or satisfaction with our lives is influenced by (or more sadly, derived from) how we compare ourselves to the people around us. There's always someone further ahead, with more interesting work, travelling to exotic places, buying perfect properties and accumulating the best stuff. But of course that's not the point. Lifestylism is about what makes us happy and what gives us meaning. Achieving The American Dream won't give us purpose and happiness, although the pursuit of it seems to compell most of us for a while even when we know the "result" won't necessarily be what we had hoped.